Ethanol backers score Pruitt meeting, demand higher volumes

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he and other Farm Belt senators will meet with U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a week, as biofuel advocates try to head off any reductions in mandated fuel volumes.

Grassley, one of the Senate’s leading advocates for ethanol and other biofuels, said the meeting scheduled for Oct. 17 grew out of a three-way telephone discussion he had with President Trump and a high-ranking official on the issue. He wouldn’t say whether that official was Pruitt.

The senator told reporters about the forthcoming meeting during a recent news conference in Iowa, as supporters and critics of federal biofuel mandates continued to spar over its merits.

Biofuel backers repeated comments they’ve made in recent weeks that Pruitt’s moves to scale back volumes of biodiesel and some other renewable fuels go against the president’s campaign promises.

“A platform isn’t just to run on. It’s also to stand on,” Grassley said.

As Grassley told reporters the renewable fuel standard supports tens of thousands of rural jobs, biofuel critics pointed to a Friday letter by 14 Pennsylvania federal lawmakers to Trump, warning that renewable fuel credits could put thousands of well-paying refinery jobs in and around Philadelphia at risk.

“The issues surrounding the RFS are complex, but the need to save well-paying, family-sustaining jobs is not,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R). They urged Trump to “take all necessary steps,” and referenced regulatory relief and RFS reform.

Of Pennsylvania’s 18 members of the House, 12 signed the letter. Those who didn’t were Republican Reps. Tom Marino, Charlie Dent, Lloyd Smucker, Tim Murphy and Brian Fitzpatrick, as well as Democratic Rep. Matthew Cartwright.

In the middle of the conflict is Pruitt, whose honeymoon period as a foe of environmental regulations in farm country may be wearing off.

The treasurer of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, Ron Heck, said at the Iowa news conference that the administrator has gone against the will of Congress to help his allies in the oil industry and refused to meet with biodiesel advocates despite Trump’s frequent comments in support of biofuels and rural priorities.

“We’re trying to get EPA to behave as it should behave,” Heck said.

The group has asked for a formal sit-down with Pruitt. “We don’t know whether we’ll be granted that meeting or not,” he said. EPA’s communications office did not immediately return a message yesterday seeking comment on Heck’s remarks.

The agency has strongly hinted at making reductions beyond those in its initial proposal for renewable fuel volumes and said it may rely on new data out for public comment (E&E News PM, Sept. 27).

EPA echoed petrochemical companies’ concerns that renewable fuel companies may be short on supplies because of import restrictions placed on Argentina and Indonesia, two big suppliers.

That move goes against Trump’s promises that he’d support biofuels, Grassley said, adding that the president has expressed his support personally, as well as in stump speeches.

“It needs to be dropped,” Grassley said about the EPA proposal.